Effects of Age and Frequency Disparity on Gap Discrimination

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Temporal discrimination was measured using a gap discrimination paradigm for three groups of listeners with normal hearing: (1) ages 18-30, (2) ages 40-52, and (3) ages 62-74 years. Normal hearing was defined as pure-tone thresholds ≤ 25 dB HL from 250 to 6000 Hz and ≤ 30 dB HL at 8000 Hz. Silent gaps were placed between 1/4-octave bands of noise centered at one of six frequencies. The noise band markers were paired so that the center frequency of the leading marker was fixed at 2000 Hz, and the center frequency of the trailing marker varied randomly across experimental runs. Gap duration discrimination was significantly poorer for older listeners than for young and middle-aged listeners, and the performance of the young and middle-aged listeners did not differ significantly. Age group differences were more apparent for the more frequency-disparate stimuli (2000-Hz leading marker followed by a 500-Hz trailing marker) than for the fixed-frequency stimuli (2000-Hz lead and 2000-Hz trail). The gap duration difference limens of the older listeners increased more rapidly with frequency disparity than those of the other listeners. Because age effects were more apparent for the more frequency-disparate conditions, and gap discrimination was not affected by differences in hearing sensitivity among listeners, it is suggested that gap discrimination depends upon temporal mechanisms that deteriorate with age and stimulus complexity but are unaffected by hearing loss.



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